Senate President Charles Schneider’s opening day remarks as prepared.
Welcome to the First Session of the 88th General Assembly.
I would like to offer a special welcome to the new members of the Iowa Senate – Senator Whiting, Senator J. Smith, Senator Nunn, Senator Celsi, Senator Koelker, Senator T. Taylor, Senator Wahls, Senator Miller-Meeks and Senator Cournoyer.
It strikes me the new members hold almost 1 in 5 seats of this body. This is a positive sign that Iowans are willing to give their time and talents at the state Capitol in the service of their neighbors. While this is a sacrifice for some, especially those who come from the far corners of our state, I can speak for those who have served in this chamber before when I say it is also extremely humbling and a unique honor to serve the people of this state in the Iowa Senate. I wish you all the best during this General Assembly.
I am proud to say Iowa is thriving. Our state boasts the lowest unemployment rate in the country. Thanks in part to the reforms passed during the last General Assembly, Iowans’ incomes are rising, their taxes are shrinking, and our economy is growing.
Most of you have probably heard that US News & World Report ranked Iowa the #1 state in the country. This recognition is something we should all be proud of. After all, it didn’t come about because of one General Assembly. It is something that we have worked on collectively over many years, and through split control of government.
Being #1 doesn’t give us the freedom to rest on our laurels. Iowa may be the #1 state in America today, but the other 49 states are looking for opportunities to make their states more desirable. Becoming the best hard, but it’s more difficult to stay there.
Being #1 does not mean that we have achieved perfection. We still face many challenges: brain drain; workforce training; improving our business climate; improving student achievement in education; enhancing our quality of life. Most of us would agree that these are all areas that need our attention. I believe we are up to the challenge.
Addressing some of these challenges means getting government out of the way. Taxes that hinder growth will result in fewer jobs, lower incomes, and less economic development.
We need to find ways to continue to reduce the tax burden on hardworking Iowans – particularly when it comes to property taxes, which have an unfair, disparate impact on Iowans who live on fixed incomes, like many seniors.
Regulations and job licensing requirements can go too far. Some regulations and requirements are necessary for public health or safety reasons. But if they go too far, they can trap the unwary in debt and discourage people with ambition from taking a chance to start a business or a new career, crushing the American dream.
Addressing some of these challenges requires government involvement. We must continue to invest in education and workforce development if we want to ensure that all Iowans are able to share in the state’s success. We must ensure we have a safety net for those who are most in need.
As we make these and other investments, we need to remember that taxpayers expect us to use their tax dollars wisely. Doing so requires setting priorities.
I look forward to working with my colleagues in the Senate, and with the House and Governor Reynolds, to address these challenges. It won’t be easy, but I have faith in our ability to overcome adversity.
Part of my faith lies in our proud tradition of being a true citizen legislature. In this chamber today, virtually none of us is a career politician. Many of us leave our regular occupations as farmers, teachers, lawyers, or business owners to serve in the state capitol. We know that we need to get our work done so we can return to our normal lives.
I hope this means the Iowa Senate can operate without the harsh partisanship that is infecting our current political discourse. For too many politicians, politics has become a sport. Some politicians focus on supporting their own team, or furthering their own ambitions, rather than shaping good public policy. When that happens, discourse suffers.
As we all know, it is a violation of a long-time Senate rule to question the motives of another senator on the floor. The rule justifiably recognizes what we sometimes forget – every senator deserves the benefit of the doubt when it comes to his or her motives on an issue. I believe that every person here decided to run because they have the best interests of their constituents in mind. I believe that is what drives the passion each of us has for the work we do here. I hope we can all aspire to keep this in mind as we go through this legislative session.
As elected officials and leaders of our state, we have a responsibility to bring people together. The time for drawing contrasts is over. The time to govern has arrived. We are all Iowans. We are all here to make our state a better place for our families, neighbors and communities. Now is the time to come together and focus on Iowa’s future.
I wish everyone in this chamber, including the staff, clerks and pages, a happy, healthy and productive legislative session. I look forward to working with all of you to continue the success of our state.